Ask the Yangxifu: When a Chinese Man Buries His Love

Broken heart
One Western woman reveals her love to a Chinese man, only to learn he can never love her back. Can she ever be more than just his friend?

LongingForLove asks:

I wonder about Chinese man act of love really. I have one guy from China and we become good friends first .We help and share stories together and have happy time also .One day i feel ” I love him ” but i don’t know what should i do really ? because he doesn’t show anythings to me that he love me ,only he always tells me that ” you raise me up.” So , i told him when i met him that ” I love you” and he replied me that ” i felt same like you ” but i feel uncomfortable if we thought like that .Whatever happen i expected we contact forever.

He told me that he is Chinese man and have tradition “love not easy” and love is in his heart . Please if you kind ,what should i do ? and his reaction to me friend or lover?


In today’s China, love and marriage is often a practical matter — even as more and more couples marry for love.

Most Chinese men must provide an apartment, a good salary and (increasingly) a car before a woman will say “I do.” Without these — for example, as a cash-strapped student, or a young professional with a pretty empty bank account — he might eschew dating altogether, and and especially if you’re a foreigner. Chinese women already expect a lot, so surely you, the foreign woman, would demand even more.

At the same time, when you marry a Chinese, it’s like marrying the entire family — so family opinion matters. Some families frown on having a foreign daughter-in-law, thanks to stereotypes (such as how we’re all “sleazy seductresses”). Unless he’s unconventional or defiant, he’d rather marry the Chinese girl they had in mind, instead of alienating his family (the most important source of social support in his life).

It’s not surprising, then, that love doesn’t always equal marriage, especially with Chinese men and foreign women. And it’s even less surprising that a true love might be buried away forever in his heart. I can’t tell you how many Chinese men I’ve met who had to leave a love behind, or let love go in the name of marriage (incidentally, they often refer to marriage as “solving their personal problem”).

So, what’s a girl to do?

You can always continue the friendship, in the hopes he might change his mind — but that’s a very, very big hope. Chances are, he’ll never be more than just a friend, even if he really does love you. And if that’s true, you can either bury your own love, or leave the friendship. They’re not easy choices. But, then again, as your Chinese friend said, love is not an easy matter.

(P.S.: To learn more about the traditional Chinese view of love and marriage, pick up the novel Waiting, by Ha Jin)


Do you have a question about life, dating, marriage and family in China (or in Chinese culture)? Every Friday, I answer questions on my blog. Send me your question today.

11 Replies to “Ask the Yangxifu: When a Chinese Man Buries His Love”

  1. ” Most Chinese men must provide an apartment, a good salary and (increasingly) a car before a woman will say “I do.” Without these — for example, as a cash-strapped student, or a young professional with a pretty empty bank account — he might eschew dating altogether, and and especially if you’re a foreigner. Chinese women already expect a lot, so surely you, the foreign woman, would demand even more. ”

    For some reason your world in China is really different from mine. This really, really depends on what type of Chinese guys you incorporate within your life. What about the Chinese guy who sells fruit down in the street? Is he never going to marry? I think that’s ridiculous. I personally know a bf/gf couple who works down at small diner. They seem completely in love with each other. And there’s another guy at my job who’s married…..and guess what…he doesn’t have an apartment…in fact he lives with 3 other guys (and no, he’s not a migrant farmer or anything). And I know another man who lives with his girlfriend in a rented small room (yeah I said room), there’s all kinds of people in every situation. Maybe the general idea is to provide a house and a car, but there are many, many exceptions to the rule. My girlfriend loves me, and I love her….and guess what…..I just graduated….I don’t have much of anything yet….

    And there ARE Chinese couples who met in college, or even High School.

    Man, what is it with Chinese folks who hang out with foreigners….it always seems to be THAT ONE TYPE. You know what I mean? You’ll rarely see those “other” types hanging with foreigners….so strange.

  2. House, car, and and paycheck? That’s nothing! Girls in Hong Kong expect men to buy them Gucci purses and fancy clothes from 7th grade on. When they get to post-uni level, expectations move up to yacht, villa in Hawaii, and stock options. =P

  3. Yes it seems to be that it’s a man’s responsibility to have wealth and buy an apartment for example. And if you can’t do it then it’s loosing face. My boyfriend is not rich and he’s worried what other people think about him so if we get married we try to keep it as a secret that the money is from my side.

    J, What you actually mean with “that one type” and “the other type”? I want to make it clear before my comments 🙂

  4. I think this is tradition in most parts of the world where men are expected to be main providers. These ideas are hard to die.

    Overall, it kind of depends on the family and couple themselves. There’s Chinese families who still remember what it’s like to struggle, who can give the guys a break. Sometimes. Then there are couples where the wife is the bigger provider, but they kind of pretend the image of the husband being more in control and bringing in the money. It’s a face issue, but don’t get me wrong. There’s a lot of non-Chinese, non-Asian couples who are like that.

  5. I read Ha Jin’s novel ‘Waiting’, it is really a painful story but I believe it is something truly happened 2 decades ago in China, and perhaps largely remain the same in lot of places in nowadays China.

    1. Thanks for the comments, Melanie — and Zhang too. Waiting is a great story, a personal fave of my own. 🙂

      J, thanks for weighing in. I’m glad you said this — it’s true that a lot of men will marry without a car and apartment, and I think I got carried away with the generalizations. The car/apartment thing is really an aspiration for people in the big cities, but many may never be able to live up to it, and still marry happily.

      Richard, thanks for the comment, and for shedding light into the world you know in Hong Kong. Wow…

      European Girl, thanks for writing. I hope things work out with you and your boyfriend!

      Friend, thanks for commenting — good points. I agree that it depends on the family and the couple (once again, I get carried away with my sweeping generalizations!).

  6. Personally, I believe that once you have enough money to eat, have roof over head, and be clean, love and relationships are infinitely more important than the additional money for things you’d -like- to have. There is a muddy line between needs and wants. If the relationship goes well and everyone’s happy and things have good synergy, then lack of “needs” money is either a non-issue or a very short-term issue.

    People always want more things. Better car, bigger house, and fancy stuff. It is this desperate perception that it is *required* of men to have “lots” of this “wants” money in order to express sincerity in love. To me, that’s bullshit.

    I’ve seen some honest, down to earth guys with close to minimum wage jobs who have great relationships with their wives. Although poor, these guys are full of good humor, love to share, and are super friendly. It’s quite touching actually 🙂

    People these days everywhere need to define a clear line between what they need and what they want, materially speaking.

  7. wow the story was a bit similar with us, me and my chinese bf he was my student and im his online english teacher we fell inlove been through a lot of trials including adopting each other cultures though i am also an asian (philippines) i think when it comes to love it has no boundaries we feel the same affection but the strange thing is we have different way on how to expressed it people here from my country became more direct i mean verbaly speaking we expressed our feelings just like the way western do, (maybe because of the influence of a western culture) but him at first he was so reluctant but now he oftenly say ilove you and the good thing he also believes in god because of my religion I guess and my influence though.. this year i’ll be planning to stay with him i hope it will become possible and can’t wait to be with each other forever.. im so happy with him.. 🙂

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